October 9th 2022: Owen Jones

Matthew 11:28-30.

The “I wills” of Christ.

            You may well be familiar with the “I am” statements of Christ found in John’s gospel (John 6:35, 41, 48,51; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5). But what about the “I will” statements? The Lord Jesus made many of these two and they form the promises. Some years ago, I was asked to do a book review by FIEC in their magazine on a book about the “I wills” of Scripture.

            Here in our text we have young disciples in the process of coming to know the Lord. Jesus refers to them as “babes” (Matthew 11:25). Contrast this with the surrounding villages where Jesus had performed most of His miracles. The people of these places did not repent and so Jesus rebuked them (Matthew 11:20). We are not to be childish but we must be child-like, (as the disciples were) for then we will heed what the Lord has declared, for the “Father” had not revealed to the “wise and prudent,” but had to His disciples (Matthew 11:25).

            In the course of His ministry the Lord Jesus spoke to people of all ages and from all walks of life. But some do not hear. I remember a time when speaking at Gorseinon when an atheist said, “I’m intelligent enough to be an atheist,” and paid no attention to the message. Pride is a terrible thing. The apostle Paul was equally proud at one time and persecuted the church, but was brought low and converted by the gracious intervention of the Lord. Augustine (bishop of Hippo 396 – 430 AD) made this comment:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

This is the aim of the Lord in offering such an invitation, peace. We shall look at two things from the Lord’s “I will” statement:

[1] What sinners hear before they come to Christ.

[2] What saints become after they come to Christ.

We shall look at the ‘before,’ and the ‘after.’ All sinners come in sin before, and all saints are separated unto God and sanctified after. A sinner comes with one ‘yoke’ of sin and then continues with a different ‘yoke’ given by Christ.

[1] What sinners were before they come to Christ.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NKJV).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 28:28, NIV).

In verse 28 we find that the invitation of Christ is addressed to two types of people. There are those who “labour” [NKJV] or are “weary” [NIV], and there are those who “are heavy laden” [NKJV] or are “burdened” (NIV]. Both depict sinful states, but both look at sin from different points of view.

[a] Weary  (those who labour).

            Here the picture of those who are tired out and exhausted through what they do. The ordinary Jew who tried to keep the Law was wearied and tired out with the effort of keeping it all. The Pharisees overtaxed the people with exact ordinances. Now Jesus did not abrogate or ignore the Law, but the Pharisees organised it all into 613 precise things a person must keep. The Lord Jesus in pronouncing woes upon these leaders said this:

“For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:4).

These traditions (the additional rules of the Pharisees) were a yoke, and a very heavy one at that. Peter at the council in Jerusalem in arguing against the circumcision lobby made this same point:

“Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10).

The laws and traditions of the Pharisees were wearisome and burdensome. They were too much and none could keep up.

            A ‘religious’ life can be wearying. We have many examples in church history. Augustine in the 5th century AD tried to keep the law and to follow the traditions of his days. After wearying himself in trying to keep the rules he sat down in a garden one day and heard a little child saying over and over again, “Take up and read.” Hearing this he eventually went into the house and read in his Bible at random these words:

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts. (Romans 14:13,14).

At once Augustine saw the light and was released from all his wearying and struggle. He declares:

“I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away,”

We could mention the eighteenth century members of the ‘Holy Club,’ John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield, which started in 1729. These men had devised a series of questions by which they interrogated their lives and so were dubbed “Methodists.” These amounted to whether they were praying constantly or meditating frequently and helping the poor and so on. It wasn’t until after their time together at Oxford that these men were truly converted and began to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit. They did not renounce the need to be holy but saw the need of true faith before anything else.

            Or what of Martin Luther in reformer of the early sixteenth century? He made monumental efforts to find peace and rest by all sorts of means and works. You should look up the story of his conversion. After years of fruitless effort he came to understand that the “righteousness of God” that Paul wrote of was not something he needed to live up to but was a gift from God. He writes concerning Romans 1:17:

“At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.'” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Are you like Paul, Augustine, Luther, and others desperately trying to match some ideal, some standard? Are you trying to justify yourself by your works or your attitude? Are you relying on tradition, the rules of men, or self-effort? Such is really hard labour! The burden will not go away, for it is wearying, exhausting, draining. Trying to earn salvation or peace is hopeless. All of these and many more examples show clearly that such a life is wearying.

[b] Burdened (those who are heavy laden).

            I do not think that this expression is simply the same as the first. We have been considering the weariness of life in trying to find true peace. All our efforts come to nothing. But here we have a different aspect of sin. This is not tautology. Here the idea is of sin in its various expressions. The focus on sensual experience or worldly pursuits without any reference to God. We are all by nature slaves to sin. Sin takes many forms, and we are burdened with these many sins. The person given to some form of addiction is burdened and heavy laden. The person fuelled by greed or lust is burdened and weighed down with their sin. The jealous, proud, and perverted are all constrained by their desires and burdened by the dissatisfaction and the load that they bear.

            In these two senses we see the world of man described. People of all ages and types are weary trying to find peace from this quarter and that, and they are burdened and heavy laden with the weight of the sinful ways.

Come to Him!

            To both types the invitation is offered – come to Christ (Matthew 11:28). I counted more than 39 hymns which begin or have included within them this idea of coming to the Lord Jesus. Joseph Hart (1712-1768) wrote these words:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready waits to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r:
He is able, He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more.

The rest of the hymn speaks of the earnestness of coming to Christ and gives reasons not to delay. Is the offer of Christ real? To come really signifies to believe. By calling people to come, the Lord is saying “believe in Me.” Coming to Christ is trusting in Him and believing in Him wholeheartedly. Have you come to Him? Have you trusted and put all your faith in Him?

I will give you rest!

            What does the Lord mean by this promise? What type of “rest” is meant? It is a rest from all labour and wearying, and it is a rest from carrying the burden of sin. Remember that the Lord Jesus knows everything about us. He knows our weary ways and He knows our burdens – our sins. And yet He still asks you to come and believe!

            Christ Jesus can offer this rest because of what He did at Calvary on the cross. Your work and labour is futile but Christ’s work is finished and complete! Where you have failed both in wearying and being burdened, Christ has triumphed in full measure. Christ came to do everything that sinful fallen man could not do. 

            The burden was rolled away – here is an old chorus we used to sing:

Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away
Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away
All my sin had to go, ‘Neath the crimson flow.
Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away

Are we burdened and weary and still carrying these sins, or are we of those who have been set free? Are you bearing sins and the yoke of weariness? How can you leave this place with the weariness and burdens you are under?

[2] What saints become after they come to Christ.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29).

Coming to Christ does not make us yoke free. We must bear Christ’s yoke. The Lord Jesus takes our burden and sin and gives us His yoke, which is a privilege to bear. We have a responsibility as servants of God. We are not the subjects of some tyrannical despot, of some conqueror who dominates and subdues, but we are subjects of the King who brings joy and fellowship. The image Christ displays is of a double yoke in which two animals are hitched together. He gives us a yoke that we are, by the strength of God, enabled to bear. His yoke is one He provides along with His strength. It is a gracious yoke for it allows us to walk with Him.

            The Lord has done all that is needed in His death and now those who have come are yoked together with Christ. In Matthew 11:29 we are to learn lessons from Christ because He is “gentle and lowly in heart.” Some teachers crush their pupils. Have you had to endure “double maths”? Well, the Lord Jesus is not like that! We are called to obey, to repent, to follow but the Lord enables. It is truly a privilege to bear Christ’s yoke for He teaches with grace and compassion. He imparts a teachable spirit to those who come. Some people “know-it-all” and you cannot ever teach them. They are proud and arrogant, but the Lord teaches in a lowly way so that those who come are taught lowliness too.

            We are to be life-long-learners. We never graduate from the university of the yoke of Christ. Some disparage those who get qualification after qualification. Why don’t they get a job? But the Lord expects us to be students of Him for all time and for eternity. The Lord is asking us to come to His school when He says, “Take My yoke.” Of course, academic qualifications can only lead you so far, but the Lord will qualify you to enter glory (Colossians 1:12). In our education system students do a range of subjects at GCSE, then specialise in two or three at A level, and then specialise even more as the go to university. In the school of God we major in the person and work of Christ – a subject which encompasses everything (Colossians 2:2,3). Is Christ our major subject of study? Learn from Him. Make Him your focus and study. He wants us to know Him that we might declare His praises (1Peter 2:9).

            There are two types of people in the world: givers and takers. Christ is the Greatest Giver will you not take from Him? We will find true rest in this yoke bearing. William Hendriksen translates Matthew 11:28 like this: “Come to Me, I will rest you.” The emphasis is upon the Lord’s great care and compassion in bringing rest. Man can never get this rest by self-effort or ingenuity. It is not something discovered by some man-made system or plan. It is only something disclosed or revealed by the Lord. The Lord, and He alone, can give such rest.

            The Lord has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Creator of life, and He will bring comfort and rest to the weary soul. Elsewhere we read these words of Christ:

28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one. (John 10:28-30).

We cannot be snatched from the hands of Christ and neither from the hands of the Father. We are doubly secure and so find true rest in God.

What burdens do you bear? What wearies you? Have you come to Christ who gives rest, true rest?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s